U.S. first-teamers show they're not ready to step aside just yet
This month was supposed to be about the U.S. national team January camp invitees and which of those players distinguished themselves to earn more looks with the first-choice national team.
Instead, the old guard stole the spotlight.
While a couple of players who took part in the January friendlies put forth efforts that might merit future call-ups during friendlies and World Cup qualifying, it was the incumbent first-teamers who have made it quite evident that they won't be relinquishing their meaningful international minutes anytime soon.
A landmark month for top-tier Americans playing club soccer abroad was capped by a noteworthy weekend on a number of fronts, as three national team stalwarts and one relatively recent international convert were involved with goals across the globe.
Landon Donovan etched his name further into Everton lore with two assists in the Toffees' FA Cup victory over Fulham. The match featured Donovan and fellow U.S. alpha dog Clint Dempsey going head-to-head as opponents for the first time since an MLS match between the Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution on May 6, 2006, and unlike that day, when Dempsey's side rolled to a 4-0 victory, Donovan stole the show with his contributions from the right wing. Donovan has now had a hand in setting up five goals in the six games he's played for Everton while on loan from the Galaxy, and he has taken away all ammo from detractors who thought that returning to Everton could wind up damaging the sterling Premier League reputation he left behind after his last loan in 2010.
A player who has spent this entire season restoring his reputation is Oguchi Onyewu, and while it is the imposing center back's defense that ultimately matters the most on the international level, his ability to contribute offensively off set pieces continues to re-emerge during his comeback season. Onyewu scored two goals off set pieces in Sporting Lisbon's victory over Beira Mar, marking his first multi-goal game since April 18, 2009, when he was playing for Standard Liege in Belgium.
Two other American internationals, DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson, found the back of the net over the weekend as well. Beasley showed off the spry legs, quick instincts and stout finishing that made him a member of the last three U.S. World Cup teams with his early game-winning goal for Puebla in Mexico. He completed a trademark run into space down the left flank, got onto the end of a well-placed pass in the box, cut back to his right foot and pumped a shot into the back of the net for a vintage finish.
Johnson's goal came in a losing effort, but the versatile German-American displayed a clean finishing touch, using his left foot to one-time a cross for a consolation score in Hoffenheim's loss to Dortmund. In his two brief appearances for the United States, Johnson has shown strong offensive instincts and technical skill, and Saturday's goal was another example of what he is capable of accomplishing in an attacking role.
Taking into account the weekend's performances, Dempsey's two recent hat tricks and the transfers of players like Robbie Rogers and Tim Ream to English clubs, the quest at cracking Jurgen Klinsmann's roster moving forward may have gotten even more difficult for domestic-based, fringe national teamers despite their month-long auditions for the U.S. boss. To say that the January camp was a futile exercise would be a stretch, as it helped grow the player pool, provide up-and-coming players some experience and give Klinsmann a better understanding of who is at his disposal, but for the bulk of the national team players who were already in the manager's good graces, there seems to be little to worry about when it comes to future appearances.
As for all of those Americans whose clubs abroad were in action over the past week, here's how they fared (season statistics encompass all competitions):